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Latest Study Indicates Low Omega-3 Index Linked to Premature Death

Jul 01,2021

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential and required for human life. While many know the importance of omega fatty acids as part of a healthy lifestyle, it hasn’t been clear how low amounts of fatty acids in the blood are also linked to all types of death including heart disease and cancer until now. A recent analysis1 consisting of 17 perspective studies consisting of more than 40,000 participants over a 16-year span has shown a 15-18% lowered risk of all causes of death based on higher polyunsaturated acids (PUFAs) in the blood.

While the analysis does not show how polyunsaturated acids (PUFAs) were consumed by each participant, it’s important to recognize the best sources. The best sources of PUFAs are found in sea life such as cold-water fish. Fish have the highest concentrations of PUFA’s as well as the best ratio of omega-3 EPA and DHA which reduces chronic inflammation—the root cause of most diseases. 

Not all forms of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood show a lower risk of death in the 15,720 participants who died in the study. For instance, there is no link to a reduced death risk seen in blood levels of 18 carbon omega-3 and alpha-linoleic acid, both of which come from plant-based sources such as flaxseed, hempseed, and chia. Alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) are short-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Though plant-based ALA is beneficial, DHA and EPA have more potent health benefits than ALA omega-3 fatty acids have. A person must consume a copious amount of plant-based foods to gain the same benefits equivalent to a single serving of cold water fish.

Omega-3 fatty acids 3, 6, and 9 also contribute to multiple biological roles, such as influencing inflammation, reducing oxidative stress, and presenting neuroprotection and cardiovascular protection. There are 100 billion neurons that make up your brain consisting of 60% PUFAs, and every cell in the human body has a cell membrane made of PUFAs. We are made entirely out of cells and cellular performance is key to maintaining optimal health.

Quality fish oil supplements have an excellent ratio of omega-3 EPA and DHA and come without the harmful toxins such as mercury found in fish. A study in the UK shows taking fish oil supplements lowers the risk of cardiovascular and all diseases across 427,000 participants.3  “The Heart and Soul” study5 also shows that lower whole blood EPA and DHA levels are associated with all causes of mortality and an accelerated rate of telomere shortening over a 5-year period. Accelerated Telomere shortening is associated with a shorter lifespan.

Clinical Significance of measuring omega-3 & 6 fatty acids in the blood.

  1. Monitoring of omega fatty acids in the blood provides a baseline and monitoring of individuals known to have a cardiovascular disease to determine prescription compliance
  2. Monitor individuals who are taking omega fatty acid supplement therapy to manage the effectiveness of treatment.
  3. Detect early signs of omega fatty acid deficiencies for the purpose of supplement therapy to reduce the incidence of disease and risk of premature death1,2

Should you choose to have your doctor test your omega fatty acid levels in your blood, the reference ranges are as follows.

Omega-3 (EPA+DHA) Index1.4-4.9 %

Optimal>3.2 %
Moderate2.2-3.2 %
High<2.2 %

Omega-6/Omega-3 Ratio 5.7-21.3

EPA/Arachidonic Acid Ratio ≤0.2

Arachidonic Acid 5.2-12.9 %

EPA0.2-1.5 %

DHA1.2-3.9 %


We’re all looking for the lifestyle improvements we can make to not only maintain but improve our health outcomes. According to this analysis, we can live a longer fuller life with less disease by managing the omega-3 levels in our blood. Because omega 3’s powerful influence on the health of every cell we have, we can expect to have more energy, vitality, and quality of life to continue to do the things we love longer. 



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